Making your own drinks at home

6 July 2010
I planted an elder tree about six months ago and it's growing nicely.  Elders are not native to Australia and I don't know anyone who is growing it.  I bought my plant at our local organic co-op.  If you're growing elders can you give me a few tips on what the plant likes and doesn't like?  I planted the tree after I watched the delightful Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's Spring program where he made elderberry champagne.  His recipe is here. I have thoughts of making champagne for Christmas every year but I have no idea how long it will take our tree to flower to the extent I need for an abundant harvest of flowers.  Any thoughts?

Our cat Hettie sunning herself at the elder tree.

Making your own drinks at home is a wonderful extension to your from scratch meals.  It cuts out preservatives and artificial flavourings and you control the amount of sugar you use.  My favourite homemade drinks are lemon cordial and ginger beer and if you click on those links you will see the recipes I use to make them.  However, there are a lot of other drinks you can make, either hot or cold, that will be more delicious than anything you can buy.  They range from the wide variety of fruit cordials, to the fizzy ginger beer, milk drinks, including smoothies, to kefir, a yoghurt drink.  All are easily made at home.

These black passionfruit will make a delicious drink.

To keep it really simple, make up a sugar syrup of half water to half sugar, to the amount you need.  For example, to make one litre/quart of sugar syrup, combine 2 cups of water to 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan and stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.  It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks in a sealed bottle.  Then just juice whatever fruit you have and combine it with the sugar syrup.  This will make a cordial concentrate that you would dilute with water when you drink it.  Making something like this is a matter of following your own taste.  You add more or less water, fruit or sugar according to how you like your drinks.  Once you make up a bottle of cordial, store it in the fridge.  It will last a month or so, depending on how such sugar is added to the liquids.

Just one way to use the information in the paragraph above is to grab yourself a seedless watermelon when the season comes around again - I'm guessing you're right in the middle of it in the northern hemisphere.  Cut all the red centre out and place it in a blender, add sugar syrup to taste, a couple of sprigs of mint and blitz it.  Dilute with a small amount of cold water or mineral water if you want a fizzy drink, according to how strong you like it, add ice cubes and enjoy.  This bright pink drink is a real hit with kids but adults love it too.  What are your favourite made-at-home drink recipes?